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had set up; that they were thrown into the fiery furnace, and that there, in the fire, their God was visibly present, screening them from all harm, so that not even the smell of fire had passed on them; and that the king, in extreme consternation at this visible interposition of God, had reversed his orders, and abandoned the new god.
It is not possible to unite more numerous or more powerful motives than were here combined to turn the king and his people back again from idols to the living God. But this recovering influence acquires new importance from the time when it was exercised—the most momentous crisis in their collective life. To be, or not to be, as an empire, depended on their acceptance or rejection of this loud call to repentance.
They rejected it, and perished: and thus dominion passed away for ever from the valley of the Euphrates, where it had been enshrined from the beginning of monarchy; because the fallen people who refused recovery, were unable any longer to exercise it in the interests of
The training of their successors in dominion is especially worthy of consideration, as an
example of the reality and of the carefulness of that rule, which, as redeeming and saving King, the Lord Jesus exercises over men. First of all, the people who had preserved the purest and broadest monotheism, outside the Jews, were chosen as the ruling race—a people who, from their isolation, poverty, and religion, had a purer and fuller morality than any other. . Then, immediately on the extension of their dominion beyond the Tigris, the king was brought into contact with one of the most eminent servants of the Lord one who had birth, rank, integrity, learning, intelligence, and piety in so eminent a degree as to recommend him to the notice and friendship of the great king. What lessons of equal value to those furnished by the experience of Daniel could have been given to the ruler of this empire, which for more than two hundred years was to be the leading power of the world ?
Many of the most important events which had occurred during the last sixty years in the region over which Cyrus now began to rule, had been associated with the most distinct and unquestionable revelations of God as the supreme Ruler, interested in the affairs of men, the friend and defender of His servants, and the vindicator of His own honour and authority. These were all public acts, done in the face of day, and before the world; all the people knew them, and knew them as direct interferences of the Lord in their affairs. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the effect which a bare narrative of these occurrences must have had on the mind of Cyrus; especially as delivered by the venerable and honoured statesman who had been chief human actor in the most important of them. It would
It would imply the entire absence of historical acumen to regard this concurrence of events as accidental, or as having reference to secular government only. We are compelled to look upon the political consequences as only preparatory to ‘that kingdom which the God of heaven would set up, which shall never be destroyed, but which shall break in pieces and consume all opposing rule.'
Both Pythagoras and Plato may be taken as examples of the influence of recovered germs of truth in leading sincere minds to God. Both were men of eminent ability, and, not content with the knowledge their own people possessed, travelled to other countries in search of it. They first visited Egypt, where, as we have seen from the recovered treasures Up till
of their theological learning, was preserved to the end the true idea of the spirituality, supremacy, and unity of the Creator, of His interest in human affairs, of His accessibility to individual men, and of His operation in them. Of both it is said that their intercourse was principally with the priests—the keepers of the above doctrines. recently it was believed that from Egypt they went to Persia, to perfect their knowledge by conferences with the disciples of Zoroaster; and Pythagoras is said to have remained some time in Babylon on his way, which would have brought him into acquaintance with Daniel and his friends. Grote and others, however, so account for the time of each as to leave none for the Persian journey ; and we think the result of their travels as seen in themselves is in harmony with modern opinion. Both, on their return, as the consequence of their improved knowledge, became the preachers of their new doctrines. Sicily and the adjacent parts of Italy were the sphere of labour to Pythagoras; and the effect, according to Grote, was a sudden and thorough reformation of manners, which, from the reception of Plato more than a hundred years after, seems to have been permanent, at any rate among his disciples.
Pythagoras did what was never done besides till the Gospel was preached. He opened a school for the common people, and in it, as is now done in the Christian Church, he expounded and enforced the theology of his system, which embraced the unity and supremacy of the Creator, His continual operation in the universe, and the subordination and consequent accountability of all to Him. And although the influence of these important and fundamental principles of human action was greatly diminished by the retention of the sun, moon, and planets, with other subordinate gods, yet there was a sufficient recognition of the Divine presence and action to form a soil from which a greatly improved morality grew.
We have no literary remains of this eminent man; if we had, we should be better able to trace the seminal relation of his theology to the reformation effected by his labours.
Plato first went to Sicily to learn the doctrine of Pythagoras from his disciples, and then sought from foreign sources the origin of his system. But that he was powerfully influenced